Green Energy Proposals Part II: Party Positions (Updated)
Aug 26, 2011

Green Energy Proposals Part II: Party Positions (Updated)

In Part I, I sketched an overview of the consequences of various green energy proposals. Because it is election season in Ontario, let me note the following party observations with respect to these various green energy proposals.

Firstly, Conservatives nationally and provincially are offering essentially nothing on this issue. A vote for them is equivalent to claiming this issue is relatively unimportant. Now both the Liberals and the NDP tacitly take up the issue but they both have their issues around consistency. For example, the Liberals are obviously implementing completely different policies in BC and Ontario and the national branch shifted back to Cap and Trade after Dion run, and lost, on his Green Shift platform which is essentially a Fee and Dividend scheme about raising the price of carbon. Inconsistent, certainly, but I will say this: they have managed to actually accomplish ground breaking implementation - rare in North America - and were willing to make this issue the core platform issue even if it ended up meaning losing.

In comparison, the NDP has also been inconsistent but very much lacking in the leadership displayed by the Liberals to an extent greater than simply the fact that they were not in power. In BC, the NDP opposed the carbon tax, favoring a national cap and trade program. One might think they were inclined to really push for an incentives program on green energy as was done under the Ontario Liberals. However, they were largely in opposition to the implementation and have only just recently come out saying they will not eliminate the Feed-In-Tariff program but with little further details offered. Their core energy policy in the Ontario election platform rests on two things. Firstly, it is in opposition to nuclear power which is just closing doors on methods to solve the problem. They have even been in opposition to wind power on the implementation and NIMBY side of it. Secondly, they focus on conservation through various incentives to make homes more energy efficient. This is great, however it is deeply hypocritical because it is almost a clone of a previous and recently expired McGuinty program that Andrea Horwath previously opposed but has been remodeled as a core campaign plank.

Part of the issue here is that the NDP really has conflicting interests. Yes it cares about global warming and green energy and it does bring many valid criticisms of the established Liberal programs to bear. But it also really focuses on the plight of families and the poor. And it is certainly the case that the rising costs - such as the rising electricity bills in Ontario - will hurt families and regressively so. This might have led one to think they would opt for the BC style plan in that case which can be made flatter or more progressive but they didn't. In fact, they are going the exact opposite direction by trying to cut the gas tax. It is great policy to make our world less regressive but terrible energy policy. Balancing those conflicting aims is difficult but the NDP has not yet managed it. There is too much opportunism that appeals to public displeasure at rising costs that gets channeled into opposing the policies, sometimes in legitimate ways and other times not. It has led to criticism by leading environmental groups like the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute. What gets lost in all this is genuine leadership.

Update: This editorial does a good job of explaining why the NDP is losing its green allies. 

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